Opinion: Applying Fractional Strategies To Workforce Challenges

USB battery charger with Now Hiring note
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A great deal has been written about labor challenges in aviation—much of it rightfully about pilots and mechanics—but another area, while less visible, is equally important to keeping the industry running.

Small-to-midsize businesses (SMB) are the heart and soul of the aviation aftermarket. They provide vital products and services that might otherwise fall through the cracks of a larger industry that counts safety and on-time performance as two of its most important benchmarks.

Building a small business may look easy, but it is far from it. It usually takes everything the business owner has and then some. So, when the SMB owner/leader runs into a problem or needs help solving major issues, or when they need to add skills to their team in finance, IT, sales, operations, engineering or human resources without breaking the bank, where do they turn?

Small businesses often do not have a team of industry veterans on which to lean. It can be especially “lonely at the top” for small business owners.

Enter the fractional executive. The aviation community is aware of the term “fractional” as it relates to aircraft: You pay only for the flight hours you use, which provides tremendous flexibility at a fraction of the cost of an entire aircraft. Now the term is being applied to staff, too. A fractional executive offers companies of any size a highly experienced resource at a fraction of what a full-time staff member would cost.

Unlike traditional consulting engagements, which typically focus on a specific problem, timeline and fee, the fractional executive becomes part of the leadership team. They accept ownership and accountability for their deliverables. Fractional executives can lead or advise teams as well as lend their hands-on experience and network to the business owner.

An SMB owner recently described to me his rapidly expanding business as being in chaos. He wanted to move toward controlled growth. Everyone on his team was already doing all they could day in and day out. He needed someone with a strategic approach and no emotional attachment to dissect the business and make recommendations about where to focus resources and prioritize.

Finding someone whom the company could afford, who truly understood his lines of business and could be hands-on as needed, was a challenge. He was thrilled to learn of the fractional executive concept, which would allow him to have an experienced leader advising him and participating in the work at a price the business could afford.

Another business owner had a hiring problem. The company had tried various approaches with hit-or-miss success but needed a sustained campaign. The human resources team was appropriately sized to manage the day-to-day, including onboarding. However, it did not have experience recruiting in the new and highly competitive market. The team was not familiar with tools used by larger companies to engage with colleges/universities and transition members of the military. Instead of adding another full-time position, the company hired a fractional executive with the skills to do the job on a part-time basis.

Those are just a couple of the many scenarios in which a fractional executive can add tremendous value to an SMB owner.

This is an exciting new trend, and while it can be particularly appealing for SMB owners, many larger companies are taking advantage of it as well. 

Josh Abelson, founder of Aviation Business Strategies, provides fractional leadership and strategic advisory services.